I fell in love with Rooney after reading Conversations with Friends. I’ve read a lot of good books this year, but this one had something special about it. The fact that it (and this) was set in Ireland, where I’m from and reside, is just another reason it was so special.
The story follows Marianne and Connell who know each other from school, even though they don’t interact there. At school Marianne is seen as a bit strange and this is the key factor in Connell not telling anyone when they strike up a relationship.
The narrative, written in third-person multiple, follows Marianne and Connell throughout the next few years when they go to University and have an on-again-off-again relationship.
The strength of the author lies in her ability to write flawed, authentic characters who the reader cares deeply for, regardless of the mistakes they make. Her pacing is also a strength, never too much or too little given away. It’s not hard to see why Rooney was on the longlist for the Booker, although I found her debut to be stronger. While the characters were expertly crafted, I did feel there was a little too much similarity between them and those from her debut, no more so than their political beliefs. While I agree with much the author states in regards to politics, that kind of rhetoric always feels forced. It can also come off as a little preachy, but luckily it wasn’t overdone. Another thing is when novels are mentioned in a narrative, like what a character’s reading. This always comes off as a bit pretentious, even though I do find it interesting as it adds to a character’s depth.
I feel like I’m being unfair to the novel by essentially picking it apart. I did still really like it, it just felt a bit similar to her debut.